Shortly before Roy Moore's latest accuser came forward Monday afternoon, an Alabama political reporter appeared on CNN to defend him. What Moore is accused of doing was only a misdemeanor in 1979, emphasized Brandon Moseley of “If [Moore] had stolen a lawn mower at age 21, would that be a reason not to elect him 50 years later?”

The comments made Moseley only the latest Moore defender to downplay the severity of alleged sexual touching initiated by a 32-year-old man on a 14-year-old girl.

In case there was any doubt, we are now way, way beyond stolen lawn mower comparison.

Beverly Young Nelson on Monday accused Moore of what basically amounts to sexual assault — even attempted rape. Seated next to attorney Gloria Allred, Nelson said Moore offered her a ride and then parked in a dimly lit area behind a diner she worked at before groping her, locking the doors and trying to force her head into his lap. “I thought he was going to rape me,” she said, constantly choking back tears. She was 16 at the time.

One reason for the lack of a united outcry against Moore in the GOP has been the questioning about how much wrong he's accused of doing. However crass the lawn mower comparison is, the then-14-year-old, Leigh Corfman, described a scene in which Moore initiated touching she wasn't comfortable with, but she didn't accuse him of attempted rape or even sexual assault, in so many words. Even if she didn't, Alabama state law both today and back then labels this kind of behavior “sexual abuse in the second degree.” It is indeed a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. And the other three women who told The Post that Moore dated them when they were between 16 and 18 were technically of consenting age (16) at the time.

This new allegation is by far the most serious and moves this well beyond legal and moral gray areas into an alleged felony — and one about which Nelson says she is willing to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She also has a high school yearbook she says Moore signed for her. Moore's signature and the one in the yearbook appear to match.

It shouldn't be terribly surprising that another woman has come forward with such an allegation — that tends to be the case — but Nelson's allegation takes this in a wholly different direction. If Moore was capable of this kind of alleged forcible assault, it stands to reason that there will be more stories to come.

Not that Moore's supporters will find it difficult to shift tactics. They'll simply move away from the lawn mower analogies and biblical comparisons to casting doubt on the accusations themselves. But this certainly makes it no longer tenable to claim that this is a misunderstanding from a bygone era in the United States or a very specific region of the country. And these Moore defenders have to wonder how much more they'll be asked to defend or dispute in the days and weeks to come.

National Republicans are now quickly trying to rid themselves of Moore's mess. After the news conference Monday, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said the Senate should expel Moore even if he's elected Dec. 12 — an outcome that can hardly be ruled out at this point — “because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”

But while the national establishment has clearly decided that the situation needs to be dispatched with — and fast — the ones that really need convincing are Moore and Alabama Republicans. Either Moore drops out or the state party withdraws his nomination. Beyond that, this drama could last another month and possibly longer, or it could conclude with Democrats winning the seat and the GOP's majority being cut in half.